Picnic tables. Fire pits. Flowing craft beer.
Food trucks are great, and most cities have them. What sets Bend apart are its food cart pods. These permanent clusters of mobile food vendors are tucked into neighborhoods, offering a laid-back and inviting atmosphere to enjoy a meal and a pint with friends, kids, even the dog. At last count, Bend had seven of these delightful gathering places.
Most are outdoors or indoor-outdoor, with covered seating, twinkly lights, music and –always – a separate tap “room” stocked with craft beer, wine, cider, kombucha and nitro coffee. Here are three we visited repeatedly on a recent trip to Bend.
The original food cart pod, The Lot has been feeding locals and delighting visitors who stumble upon its west side residential-ish locale since 2013. Just a few blocks from Mirror Pond, The Lot offers four food carts – Fricken Faco, BND Burgz N Dogz , Maki Maki Sushi and A La Carte, a fries, salad and taco concept – and a bar counter serving beer, cider, kombucha, hard seltzer and wine from 16 rotating taps.
The focus is on regional beers, but they have a good selection from around the world. In the summer months, its garage doors remain open and the built-in seating is delightfully open-air; but they close them in the cooler months and crank up the heated benches (yes!) making it a cozy, self-contained food hall-meets-taproom. Don’t miss the lava rock wall and gas fire pit.
Food pick: Gotta give it up to Fricken Faco’s clever lineup of fried chicken and fish taco offerings. We liked the two-taco combo of crispy, fried Pacific Northwest cod served with tomatillo-avocado salsa and cilantro-lime aioli ($ 11). Got chicken envy? Get an order of hand-breaded, fried-to-order nuggets with sweet maple bacon sauce ($ 11).
Details: Open 11 am to 9 pm daily at 745 NW Columbia St. in Bend; www.thelotbend.com.
Situated across from the Box Factory, between downtown and the Old Mill, The Podski features a picnic-inspired lot with multiple food carts offering a dizzying array of options, from Thai street food and Mexican tacos to chef-driven sushi, grandmother-approved pierogis and even charcuterie. Did we mention Podski Show? (In case you need a blowout between bites.)
Hair appointments aside, here’s how it works: Buy your food, grab a table, then make your way next door through the double red doors of the shiny shipping container for a pint of something sudsy. Inside, it’s a full-on wood-paneled bar with red stools, family-style benches and six rotating West Coast craft beers on tap, plus canned cider, wine and kombucha.
Food pick: Thailand has been slinging drunken noodles, pad thai and other Thai street food classics in Bend since 2012. Their curries (starting at $ 14) pair beautifully with the PNW beers on tap. Just choose your protein, spice level and sauce – red, yellow, green, panang or massaman – on a bed of jasmine or brown rice.
Details: Open 11 am to 11 pm daily for beer (and until 8 pm for most food carts) at 536 NW Arizona Ave., Bend; www.thepodski.com
Crosscut Warming Hut No. 5
Located behind the Box Factory, near the Old Mill District, the garden-like Crosscut is the latest addition to Bend’s food pod scene.
Three food carts – Bluma’s Chicken & Waffles, Abe Capanna’s Detroit Pan Pizza + Italian and Gyro Power – surround a two-story, cabin-like taproom with 36 rotating Pacific Northwest brews and unique beers from around the world, including sour and wild ales. For non-beer drinkers, they have cider, wine and kombucha.
In the summer months, enjoy a crisp Grapefruit Topo Mind IPA from 10 Barrel Brewing on the shaded patio. Come winter, claim a spot by the fire pit or tuck into that cozy pub – near the wood-burning stove – with a smooth Backroad Vanilla Porter by Klamath Basin Brewing.
Food pick: Abe’s pan pizza, which is made in blue steel pans and baked in an old-school gas deck oven. The Ruby Baby is delicious – made with mozzarella, red onion, parmesan, rosemary and pistachios, which give the thick pie a delightful crunch ($ 16 / $ 30).
Details: Opens at noon daily at 566 SW Mill View Way in Bend; https://crosscutbeer.com